Few have ever seen the picturesque Westminster Bridge deserted – it is always bustling with hundreds of excited tourists, joggers, suits walking briskly to and from offices, the odd performer in Scottish kilts, or campaigners handing out leaflets.
That’s the scene around the year, with Indian and other tourists hunting for the perfect angle for selfies against the Big Ben, the Palace of Westminster, the London Eye or the Thames.
The busy throng vanished for some hours after Khalid Masood, driven by what Prime Minister Theresa May called ‘Islamist ideology’, ploughed a car into pedestrians and stabbed a police officer to death on Wednesday – but not for too long.
The selfies returned soon after the bridge was opened on Thursday evening. People determined to make a statement against Masood’s act of terror walked up and down the bridge, placing flowers and cards with moving messages at various points.
Most gathered at the point where he drove the car into the fence below the Big Ben. The road remained closed beyond that point (opened on Friday), as the police kept a distant watch on the growing number of people and vehicles that arrived on the bridge.
Television and print journalists were all over the place, capturing the moment of life returning to normal. Vehicular traffic passed by at a slower pace than usual, stopping to allow pedestrians to cross mid-way, while some honked in solidarity with the police.
A woman wearing Chelsea football club’s scarf was telling journalists the bridge felt no different than any other day: “I am a Londoner born and bred. We carry on. I lived through the IRA troubles in the 70s. We just have to carry on.”
Elsewhere, a British Sikh, who would only name himself as Singh, said: “We cannot let them cow us, dictate to us how we should live our life.”
Sam, another local, said, “It’s London. It’s one of the greatest cities on earth. You’ve got to come out. You can’t let anyone scare you.”
At the Waterloo end of the bridge, a priest and his followers turned up with candles. An impromptu vigil was set up, as the candles were lit, prayers said, and after a minute’s silence, the lit candles were placed along the bridge.
The scene at the nearby London Eye was no different from any other day. It stopped for some time on Wednesday, when visitors were stuck in the capsules in mid-air, but the slow-moving giant Ferris wheel that provides panoramic view of London soon turned.
The wheel, selfies, joggers, traffic and the quirky performer in kilts — they all are back on the bridge.